World Media

Sweden drops rape investigation against Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

The UN's Special Rapporteur on torture has called for a "full investigation" into the role Sweden played in driving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into asylum and eventual custody, after the rape case against him was dropped.

Assange is also fighting a USA bid to extradite him from Britain on charges filed under the Espionage Act that could see him given a sentence of up to 175 years in a U.S. prison.

"After completing the investigation, it is now clear that oral testimony supporting the claimant's account has weakened", Eva-Marie Persson, deputy director of public prosecution, said in Stockholm yesterday.

It is the second time Swedish prosecutors have dropped the case against Mr Assange, having already discontinued the case in 2017.

The right decision would have been to interrogate Assange in London and then charge him with rape, she said.

Two months earlier, Assange was evicted from the Ecuador Embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012.

The statute of limitations on Anna Ardin's allegation expired in 2015, and in 2017, a Swedish prosecutor closed the second case, only for it to be reopened again following Assange's arrest by United Kingdom police earlier this year.

Separately, the United States is seeking Assange's extradition from the United Kingdom over his alleged role in the release of classified military and diplomatic material by Wikileaks in 2010.

"I want to inform about my decision to discontinue the preliminary investigation", Persson told a news conference.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said in a tweet that the focus should now move to the "threat" that Assange has been "warning about for years: the belligerent prosecution of the United States and the threat it poses to the First Amendment".

A spokesman for Assange's legal team said: "From the outset of Sweden's preliminary investigation, Julian Assange's expressed concern has been that waiting in the wings was a United States extradition request that would be unstoppable from Sweden - and result in his spending the rest of his life in a U.S. prison". Assange has always denied the allegations, saying the sex was consensual.

He was in Britain at the time but dodged an attempted to extradite him to Sweden by claiming political asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London.

Assange skipped bail in Britain to avoid possible extradition and took refuge in the embassy in 2012.

An extradition hearing to decide whether Assange should be sent to the scheduled for February next year. He was arrested for jumping bail and jailed.

The US accuses Assange of conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack passwords to gain access to the information, which was subsequently posted on WikiLeaks.